I am a political theorist with an interest in ethnographic methods and interpretive social science. I teach at MIT, where I am an Associate Professor (with tenure) in the Department of Political Science and hold the Class of 1943 Career Development Chair. In 2024-25, I will be a Member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. 

My research examines how the state is experienced by those who interact with it and those who act in its name. My first book, When the State Meets the Street: Public Service and Moral Agency (Harvard University Press, 2017), probes the everyday moral life of street-level bureaucrats. It debunks the myth of a faceless bureaucracy, and sheds light on the moral dilemmas that frontline public service workers encounter when enacting public policy.

My second book project, Institutional Atmospherics: The Interior Architecture of the Welfare State (under contract with Harvard University Press), looks at the seemingly bland and generic architecture of welfare offices.  It shows that, throughout the twentieth century, governments repeatedly turned to architecture to try to repair their relationship to citizens, and it recovers from that history a more ambitious conception of what an interface between state and society can and should do. 

My work has appeared in American Ethnologist, the American Political Science Review, the Annual Review of Political Science, the British Journal of Political Science, Contemporary Political Theory, and Grey Room. I have also contributed essays to The Atlantic, the Boston Review, and The New York Times. Along with Duncan Bell, I have co-edited a volume of essays on Political Theory and Architecture (Bloomsbury, 2020).

Here are three of my more recent papers (and my CV): 

(Annual Review of Political Science, 2022)
(American Review of Political Science, 2022, with Jasmine English)
(in Political Theory and Architecture, 2020).

Prior to joining MIT, I was a junior research fellow at Christ’s College, Cambridge and a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Ethics in Society at Stanford. I received my Ph.D. from the Department of Government at Harvard and hold a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT.

I have been a fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin, and serve on the editorial board of The Journal of Politics.